On 24 June 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement mandated that NHS Trusts complete coronavirus risk assessments for all vulnerable staff within the next four weeks. This followed an ITV investigation that found the majority of NHS Trusts had not completed full risk assessments for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff—seven weeks after being instructed to do so.
The implications of this mandate are far-reaching and important.
First off, there aren’t enough occupational health staff to complete all risk assessments, which means line managers may have to step in. This has implications for privacy and could result in workers revealing details about their personal health that they wouldn’t ordinarily share. This could open up employers to future claims of discrimination and create needless discomfort in the workplace.
Secondly, we know that NHS Trusts are working extremely hard at the moment. If they haven’t yet completed these assessments, it’s not because they don’t want to—it’s because they’re extremely busy. Given that many are currently planning to hit this deadline through manual paperwork, we know that the chances of human error are also increased. This risk can be avoided.
Finally, we know that people’s health status and our understanding of COVID-19 are constantly evolving. So, even if trusts manage (in suboptimal ways) to hit the current NHS England deadline, what happens after that? The approaches taken to hit that deadline are unlikely to be sustainable and cannot be regularly repeated to ensure the ongoing safety of our essential NHS workers.
Public Health England has also called for “accelerated development of culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools that can be employed in a variety of occupational settings and used to reduce the risk of employees’ exposure to and acquisition of COVID-19.”There needs to be a better approach to risk assessment—and there is one.
Since the pandemic, Rainbird has been working with several NHS trusts to deliver high volumes of accurate and automated COVID occupational health risk assessments. Rainbird’s intelligent automation tool has been approved by a clinical safety review panel and is live in several trusts, including NNUH and Royal Papworth.
So, upon reading NHS England’s mandate, we knew it would be irresponsible for us not to share our tool to help all trusts get over this hump.
Rainbird’s automated COVID risk assessment tool:
- Provides a secure form for each worker to complete, resulting in a documented risk rating
- Accounts for all known comorbidities and cofactors, including those that disproportionately affect BAME groups
- Produces a redacted report for line managers and a confidential occupational health report that’s sent directly to occupational health teams, without being viewed by line managers
- Is confidential and secure, with no data stored once the report has been sent (to protect the privacy of NHS staff)
- Has already been approved by a clinical safety review panel
- Can be used for free by all NHS England trusts until 31 July, no catch
The expertise underlying this COVID risk assessment tool has been designed in partnership with one of the country’s leading experts, Dr Robert Hardman. He is Consultant in Occupational Medicine at Workplace Health and Wellbeing at NNUHFT’s Occupational Health Service. He is also Director of Quality Improvement in Audit and Accreditation (Faculty of Occupational Medicine), and former chair of SEQOHS (the accreditation scheme for quality occupational health providers). Dr Hardman and the Rainbird team based the decision-making logic of the COVID tool on a paper titled, “A Medical Employability Code and Occupational Health Risk Assessment in the NHS,” which was co-authored by Dr Hardman and Major James Salt.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS has done so much for us all. We feel fortunate to be able to repay the incredible support provided by NHS staff. We urge all NHS England trusts to get in touch to request access to our COVID-19 risk assessment tool, free until the end of July—no catch.